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cover story

Porsche Boxster S

introducing, the 911’s biggest threat… It looks great, sounds great and has a flat six driving the rear wheels, yet it costs half the price of a 911. Is the Boxster Porsche’s best sports car? By Ben Barry Photography: Greg Pajo





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the big drive

Porsche 911 Carrera S

Half the road’s sheet ice and half is dry, but the rear wheels always find grip. 991’s chassis impresses

And six hours later we’re at zero feet, sea level, staring across an arrid desert plain. What a day!




German plates, thick snow. It’s understandable to doubt that this was shot in Hollywood

He doesn’t like the new steering or the steering wheel itself (too wide?). He is, arguably, on the picky side




future gazing

The Porsche supercars




the big test

BMW M5 vs CLS, XFR, Panamera the Panamera and CLS, remember, are far more expensive than the 5-series in entry-level trims – and it’s an effective job, what with plump leather seats, Alcantara headlining and leather-stitched/aluminium-filleted surfaces. It does feel plush and premium, and the conventional bodyshape creates more rear headroom and luggage space too; prosaic details, yes, but ones that must resonate with people shopping at this end of the market. The fact remains, though, that the CLS and Panamera feel more special. Great driving position in the M5, though; true to form, the driver’s seat can be dropped on the deck and the steering wheel adjusted to suit every combination of leg/arm dimensions, while nothing noticeably hinders your visibility. You immediately feel low and connected, ready to attack a favourite road. Move off and you’ll notice the dual-clutch gearbox is a compromise at parking speeds, jerking the car back and forth as you try in vain to finesse the throttle, but get beyond that and it’s perfect, a brilliantly smooth auto with a rapid-fire manual mode. If you’ve driven the latest M-DCT, it’s deja vu; coming to this after the sometimes ponderous, sometimes ferocious clutchless manual in the previous M5, it’s nothing less than a revelation. Our car rolls on the standard 19-inch rims, but there seems little trade-off in ride quality on the optional 20s; it’s incredibly compliant for such a sporting car. So you build up the speed, noticing the firm body control, but also that the steering feels a little synthetic – linear, yes; accurate, that too, but a tad more dialogue with the road would be nice, and the three settings afforded by this electrically-assisted set-up simply ladle on weight rather than adding tactility. What of this radical bi-turbo V8? It’s initially disappointing, because when you’re just mooching around it’s a wallflower, largely failing to let you and your passengers know that there’s something truly special waiting for the commands from your right foot; it just makes a fairly anodyne zeeeewwww noise. But M has put a lot more effort into making this V8 more characterful than the turbocharged 1M’s six-pot, and when you wind out the revs it morphs from subdued cruiser to industrial monster, with farty trills and horsey sneezes when you back off suddenly, and a richly textured final run to the limiter that goes a long way to recreating the busy, slightly manic M-car feel of old. Clearly the CLS is more visually flamboyant, and that’s carried over with the interior, the underlying architecture of the dashboard’s cuts and swoops appearing more exotic, the switches engaging with a more substantial detente; the clock-facings are classier, the seat bolsters a little more pronounced than the M5’s. If you wanted to make an entrance, you’d take the CLS. Fire up the engine and – WUMP! – AMG’s explosive wet thud has

We stayed here. So can you! Seiont Manor Hotel is perfectly located for the epic roads of Snowdonia and Anglesey race circuit. We based ourselves here for this test,


and now CAR readers can stay there at a specially discounted rate. For full details of this offer go to


Four cars and 1998bhp divided by eight driven rear wheels equals 250bhp per wheel. Pootling round corners hardly an option

transitioned to the 5.5-litre bi-turbo, and it settles to a boisterous machine-gun idle that your neighbours will love. Manoeuvre out of your parking space and the MCT seven-speed auto glosses where the M5 jerked. The ride quality is again excellent – on this car’s 19-inch ContiSportContacts – but there’s more surface detail seeping through to the steering at low speeds, more gritty information. Compared with the old E63, this car’s new electrically-assisted helm doesn’t quite crackle with the same amount of feedback, but the sneeze-factor – that initial dead spot you sometimes feel at the top of the rack – has been dialled right back. As you steer between the dry-stone walls that line the Llanberis pass and lean on the front end, relying on the high grip levels and resistance to understeer to avoid punching yet another hole through them as so many motorists have done before, you feel more intimately in contact with the surface’s imperfections and nuances than you do in the M5. And all the while that V8 is burbling and hammering away, the throttle response startlingly good for a blown mill; the way this lump cranks through the rev range is more organic, more linear than the M5, more reminiscent of a naturally-aspirated unit. Just the extraordinarily keen acceleration in the low-to mid-range really gives the game away that a pair of turbos are lending a helping hand when you drive the base version without the £6k power boost; that kick is suitably amplified in our fettled tester, but it’s still got the same organic feel. The transition to turbocharging certainly appears to have been easier for AMG than M Division. It’d be logical to expect the Jag – an older design, a rival with less horsepower and torque, it’s V8 mated to ‘just’ a six-speed torque-converter auto gearbox, not a trick seven-speeder – to feel overwhelmed by the Germans, but the honest truth is it just doesn’t. That supercharger retains the 5.0-litre V8’s instant throttle response, the steering – light, delicate, feelsome – is the best here, the gearbox always does the effortless stuff brilliantly, yet it never feels like the weakest link when you’re pulling for rapid-fire shifts.4

Panam: from outsider to favourite to outsider in just 400 corners



596 March 2012 CAR magazine